The Big One….

Sunday 24th June 2018, this date has been ingrained in my brain for the last 6 months. Since I signed up to do Cardiff Olympic Triathlon back last November, it’s all I’ve been able to think about. I’ve been wanting to do this for so long but every time over the last few years that I’ve contemplated it my health problems have always stopped me. But yesterday after a 4.10am alarm call (it’s literally obscene these early starts for Triathlon) my long awaited dream came true. I’m still in shock to be honest that I actually did it.

The build up hasn’t been great. I was really down on myself after my last triathlon, I’ve been ill for a couple of weeks following a tummy bug/flu and I’ve been on holiday, so all of this combined, led to massive self doubt, zero confidence and a general sense of dread rather than excitement. So a few days prior to the race I really had to pull myself together and stop all this negative thinking. I’ve been meditating a lot and I’ve been using Headspace ‘competition’ pack which has been so useful. I’ve also been using positive self talk affirmations. I got to the start as nervous as hell but excited and not full of crippling self doubt.

Another beautiful sunny day dawned over Cardiff Bay. I’ve been so lucky with the weather this year. It’s leading to a false sense of security that at all triathlons the sun always shines!!!

Swim – 1.5km

Time – 38.51

This swim has given me nightmares. After my previous sea swim triathlon, which I found really hard, I have been terrified of this swim. Watching the other competitors before me getting in the water and setting out just made me feel sick. When it was my turn to walk the gang plank I felt like running away.

I walked on to the pontoon, looked at the black cold water and jumped!!!! As soon as I hit the water, the nerves were gone. The water was a lovely temperature not cold and Cardiff Bay tasted like a lake and immediately it felt a more comfortable environment to be in rather than the sea. We went on holiday a week before and we stayed next to small Italian lake which I swam in most days. This gave me so much experience and confidence of lake swimming and the water was very similar in Cardiff Bay so straight away I felt at ease. I headed straight towards the back of the pack, splashed around a bit and before I knew it we were off.

I fell behind a bit but I didn’t care. The swim was straight forward, lots of room and the course was so easy to navigate, sighting wasn’t a problem. My biggest worry was that the later competitors behind me would come and knock me about a bit but apart from a couple of mild collisions it was so totally fine, I actually started to enjoy.

I got to the first bouy really easily and came around 2nd bouy and then it was just a long straight back into the bay. I stayed quite wide of everyone and I went off course slightly as I was heading towards the blue inflatables of transition in the distance and not the green inflatables of the finish line but I quickly veered to the left and it was all good.

I dragged myself onto the finishing pontoon and was helped up by two marshals, I did actually feel like having a little lie down at that point as I just could not believe I’d done it. I ran into T2 and could not stop smiling. My husband was there cheering and I just kept shouting, ‘I did it, I did it’!!!

I think after all the terror this was one of highlights for me.

As you can see it wasn’t exactly a straight swim but it was fine.

Bike- 40km

Time – 1.26.41

I ran into T1 and then proceeded to do my usual faffing. I’ve not really found a way to keep my hair in a tidy decent style so I have it tied up high for the swim but then have to untie it as I can’t get my bike helmet on otherwise – a right faff! I managed to get my wet suit off quickly and my already talc-ed up socks on with my bike shoes and off I went.

The bike course is flat and fast and 3 laps. I knew I wanted to keep a consistent time for the 3 laps. I’d driven the course the day before and Cardiff is my home city so it was all straight forward. I got all my nutrition in that I wanted. The only issues I had was I had cramp in my bottom really early on. I think that going off really quickly on the bike in hard gears as the course was flat led to a bit of cramp. Too hard too soon maybe?? Needed a bit of high cadence to warm up first?? Not sure really. It eased off after about 30 mins or so. I really enjoyed being surrounded by so many riders and the closed roads were epic! There were moments of long straight flat traffic free road where you could just go for it, it was just amazing! The 3 laps flew by. The U turns were a bit tricky and had to slow right down for those. Something to practice for the future. The 3 laps whizzed by and before I knew it I was staggering into T2 and ready for the run.


Time- 57.42

T2 was easy peasy and straight into the run. I grabbed my 2 energy gels and off I went. I’ve done a a fair few bricks but this transition was hard. My right foot had gone a bit numb on the bike and when I started to run, I was really suffering with my feet and as always my lower calf’s. This eased off after about 15 minutes into run. As runs go, it was flat and quite enjoyable. It was gloriously sunny and I really enjoy being in a crowd with all the other runners. First 5k was quite long but by the second 5k I was into the flow of it. The energy gels helped. I fell into pace with two other women on the course and that really helped me. I’m much better when I’m running with others. The last 10 mins were tough, I was hot, the finish line was getting nearer but I still had to keep going.

I had some great support on the run, my husband was on the course the whole time but by the time my run had started the rest of my family had joined him. My in laws brought Isabella and Joseph and it was fantastic seeing everyone. I saw some friends and the crowds were amazing.

Into the last 5 mins and I came around the corner, I saw a friend from running club, cheering me in, a friend from work cheering and I started to get all emotional. Into the finishing straight and I was over the line.


Total time – 3 hours & 9 mins.

The race was beyond all my expectations. From the very start Always Aim High Events did not disappoint. The organisation was superb. An important factor for me was the safety cover on the swim course and you couldn’t have asked for anything better. Every time I looked up there were kayakers everywhere. Even when we watched the elite races later, there was someone who seemed to struggle right from the start, within seconds there was a kayaker right next him. The marshalls were fab, the signage & routes were clear and well thought out. For £90 or so you would expect this high level of organisation so I’m pleased the event was extremely well run.

Post Race

I can’t quite believe I’ve done it. It’s yet to sink in. It was phenomenal! I was having a crisis of faith before this event that maybe Triathlon wasn’t for me but this race just confirmed how much I love it. Throughout the race and really almost as soon as I got in the water, I knew I could do it, I knew I had it in me. This is testament to the training I have been doing. This wouldn’t have been possible without the quality coaching I’ve received from Lawrence Cronk and Whittlefit. I’ve been following a coaching plan for 6 months and it has been nothing short of amazing. The whole experience has been a revelation and a huge learning curve, I knew pretty much nothing about training for triathlon but Lawrence created a training plan for me which pushed my limits but was realistic, something that fitted into my family life. Having a coach has taken the weight off my shoulders in terms of thinking and planning. That in itself buys you time and in our busy lives, time is precious and to me it’s beyond valuable. I had a straight forward answer to every single query I came up with and I definitely had a few which again is so valuable to have a reliable source for information. I trained hard and raced easy. This originally was supposed to be a 40th birthday present to myself but I’ve loved every second and I really don’t want the journey to end here. I’m going to continue with the coaching as it’s makes me a happier person and I love doing some I enjoy. This journey has been a massive boost to my self esteem and confidence. I’m a 40 year old working mother of 2 with dodgy insides and endometriosis. If I can do it then anyone can. The biggest question now is….what’s next????

Lastly but by no means less least, I raised over £850 for Velindre. This by far exceeded all expectations. I been blown away by my family & friends generosity. I re-read all of my support messages before the race and it gave me a massive boost.

After the race we all hung around Cardiff Bay & even managed to get some bubbly. What a fantastic day!


3 thoughts on “The Big One….”

  1. Well done, Nicola. A great achievement. What you can do when you set your mind to it! A lesson there for us all. With love, Alan and Pam


  2. Well done you!!! Amazing, I’m emotional all over again reading this. So proud to see you coming in at the end, fantastic! xxx


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